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San Juan County Sheriff's Office adds deputy dedicated to behavioral health

Deputy David Smith has been with agency for almost 7 years

Joshua Kellogg
Farmington Daily Times
  • Smith spent about four years as a school resource officer.
  • Smith has moved into the newly created position of behavioral health deputy, according to a Sheriff’s Office press release.
  • One of Smith’s early goals is to help provide patrol deputies with information on resources in the community that can assist those in need.

FARMINGTON — The San Juan County Sheriff’s Office has created a new position for a deputy to focus on helping members of the community connect with resources for behavioral health and substance abuse.

Deputy David Smith has moved into the newly created position of behavioral health deputy, according to a Sheriff’s Office press release.

The position was created after San Juan County received a grant to help offer resources for those in the community who struggle with substance abuse or mental health diagnoses.

The New Mexico Human Services Department awarded the agency a $250,000 Behavioral Health Investment Zone grant for the current fiscal year.  

San Juan County Sheriff's Office Deputy David Smith

Crisis intervention team

Smith has been with the Sheriff’s Office for nearly seven years and spent about four years as a school resource officer.

He told The Daily Times that he is part of the agency’s crisis intervention team and took part in advanced training in crisis intervention.

“I thought this was just a natural progression to move along and be able to assist the community,” Smith said.

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Some of Smith’s responsibilities include training for the crisis intervention team, handling crisis intervention cases, and instructing and providing assistance with mental health training sessions mandated by the state of New Mexico.

“The Sheriff’s Office is committed to the health and welfare of our citizens struggling with mental illness and those going through mental crisis,” San Juan County Sheriff Shane Ferrari said in the press release. “For several years we have made training our deputies to identify and properly handle these unique situations a priority.”

Increase in de-escalation training

Law enforcement agencies across the nation have been making efforts to increase de-escalation training in an effort reduce the instances in which an officer resorts to the use of force to handle a call, Smith said.

The deputy also will coordinate with area law enforcement agencies, the San Juan County District Attorney’s Office, mental health professionals and probation/parole officers.

It was about four years ago Smith said that the Sheriff’s Office started tracking crisis intervention team cases, and that work led the agency to develop his position.

But work has been limited on that front, as deputies have their regular duties, including being dispatched on calls.

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Smith is strictly assigned to behavioral health-type calls, which frees him to help find transportation for individuals or direct them to community programs that will benefit them, he said.

“This gives me a really good opportunity to help solve some of those issues or work towards that end goal,” Smith said.

One of Smith’s early goals is to help provide patrol deputies with information on resources in the community that can assist those in need.

“What we're ultimately wanting to do is with this program is being able to de-escalate situations more quickly and safely with these individuals,” Smith said. “So that we can turn around and get them assistance quickly.”

Joshua Kellogg covers breaking news for The Daily Times. He can be reached at 505-564-4627 or via email at jkellogg@daily-times.com.

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